Your Formal Photos

I'm sometimes asked if I would mind taking some group photos on top of the usual reportage-style wedding photos that I provide – and I can't blame people for thinking that I might not be keen as to be fair, as I don't include huge numbers of these sorts of images in my website galleries. I do however think that great family portraits are massively important for a number of reasons, and so will always take some at every wedding that I go to - and even find myself encouraging people to get some if they they happen to think these photos are a waste of time (...they definitely aren't).

That being said I do think it's important that the value of these photos weighs up with the amount of time and effort that you have to spend getting them - and so I always try to get through this part of the day as fast as I can, and with as little fuss/stress as possible. While I really do think that everyone should get some good portraits for family history sake (think how good it is to see old family portraits of your parents/grandparents etc!), any extended session with a photographer is time that you could be using to enjoy yourselves - and your wedding should be FUN! As such, to get this bit done without the headache, my advice to all brides and grooms is to do the following:

WRITE A SHOT LIST (AND STICK TO IT) – I can't stress this one enough! While I can't possibly tell you what photos will and won't be of value to you, writing a list to work from on the day will make things much much faster. If you're winging it then you might miss an important photo/person out, and you can also expect a lot of suggestions for photos that you 'should' be getting (but don't really care about) from helpful family members... bless them. When writing a list, try and be picky about it; if you think that photo of you and your 2nd cousin (or whoever) is one that you're getting just because you feel like you should, then you might consider dropping it from the list. There are plenty opportunities to get less formal photos of you with any of your guests throughout the day, so you don't need to miss these lovely but lesser souls out completely - it's just going to be much quicker to grab a casual posed photo with them through the day than it would be to include absolutely everyone in the formal shoot. A good way to think about your list is to think about the photos you want to get in terms of time-versus-reward; is any particular photo on your list going to have been worth the added standing-about time, while the rest of your guests are partying and getting all your tasty nibbles and fizz?

GET HELP – I can definitely recommend getting a couple of helpers on board that can recognise the people on your photo list and round them up at the appropriate time (the louder and bossier the helpers the better, I've found!) -  so give them a copy of the list and have them briefed before the day. Your photographer will be hustling everyone along as best they can, but without knowing who everyone is they are definitely limited in what they can achieve to get people moving, and so the added help will get you back to the wedding fun a lot quicker.

GET EVERYONE PREPARED – It's a great idea to tell everybody that has made it onto the final list in advance so they are ready to go when the time comes. The biggest time killer with a formal photo session is people going missing or not being found when it's their turn to jump into a photo, leaving everyone else standing around while a search party is sent out - so making sure everyone knows when and where they're needed will be a big help.

So basically... give it some thought and be organised about it! If you're good to go with a list of photos ready, helpers are on hand, and everyone involved shows up and is ready to go, then there's really no reason these photos should take any more than 10-15 minutes... easy!